Back in history: the division of Berlin


West Germans scale the Berlin Wall ahead of East German guards as the Cold War Barrier falls in November 1989. HESSE PHOTO, ULLSTEIN BILD/GETTY

CAIRO – August 14, 2022: Shortly after midnight on August 13, 1961, East German soldiers began laying barbed wire and bricks as a barrier between Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the democratic western part of the city.

The story began days before when Walter Albrecht, the communist leader of East Germany, got the go-ahead from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to start closing all entrances between East and West Berlin. .

The soldiers got to work on the night of August 12-13 and laid more than 100 miles of barbed wire just inside the borders of East Berlin. The wire was quickly replaced with a six-foot-high, 96-mile-long wall of concrete blocks, guard towers, machine gun posts and searchlights. According to History, East German officers known as the Volkspolizei patrolled the Berlin Wall day and night.

After World War II, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French occupation zones. The city of Berlin, although technically part of the Soviet region, was also divided. The Soviets captured the eastern part of the city after a massive Allied airlift in June 1948 thwarted a Soviet attempt to encircle West Berlin. The eastern part was pulled more closely into the fold of the USSR.

Over the next 12 years after its isolation from its Western counterpart, East Germany saw between 2.5 and 3 million of its citizens turn to West Germany in search of better opportunities. In 1961, around 1,000 East Germans – many of them skilled workers, professionals and intellectuals – left every day.


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